Repetitions, Dragons, and Why People Make Excuses

Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history:
…when something happens once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when some event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding.”

Cleopatra‘s beautyfor instance, wouldn’t have gained as much acknowledgement had she not turn a queue of men with gallantries into falling for her. I would complement Hegel’s point by saying that luck and success are separated by a span of repetition–and hardwork, probably. The following article is going to discuss about, basically, ideas that have been self-repeating in my head for the past, wait, 38 days of my blogging hiatus.


1. Why Not Head of Dragon?

I am pretty sure you’re familiar with an old analogy which proclaims (if not ‘assumes’) that being the ‘tail of a dragon’ is much better than being the ‘head of a snake’. People often relate this hypothesis with the options of struggling hard in a competitive community over playing it easy in an underdog team.

This morning, Iman came up with his usual confidence, inquiring upon, “Why not head of dragon?” Well because, I would rebut, not everyone knows what they’re really good at and brave enough to test the water with the inherent risk of being horrendously defeated. Because some people–yours truly included–are just too coward.

Researches (I know this from Pak Kun–a head of dragon himself) show that only 0.0003% of the entire world is blessed enough to champion that prestigious title. These are CEOs of multinational corporations, world political leaders, globally accepted artists, and Nobel Prize winners. But then again, you’ll never know if you’re one of them unless you’re ready to lose at some point.

Once you get there, Iman would say, don’t forget to share your magic and help other snakes to grow into invincible dragons.

2. Leaving or Losing?

Being a free-thinker who’s too proud to rely on religions also means losing your ground–it involves endless questions on what’s gonna happen after we leave this ephemeral realm. Death, therefore, becomes scarier for its extreme level of uncertainty. Until today, I’m still (trying) to hold on to what Islam has been telling me: that good deeds will be rewarded and bad people will have to pay something off. But that is just a tiny part of what death is really about.

Two weeks ago, I finished both reading and watching Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close–a wonderful story about how a(n extremely incredible) boy named Oskar Schell had to deal with his father’s death over 9/11. It took him months of investigation and discovery until he came to accept one bitter truth: that death is real–and it takes your beloved away. Now that, is what death is mostly about for me. Either leaving the people you love–or losing them in pain. The fear is twice as big on me because I’ve never lost any significant other in my life, which gets me used to take them for granted. I just hope that even if we have to part temporarily, we shall meet again in the Afterlife.

P.S. The story as a movie is as enjoyable as it is as a book, in their distinct way. It’s a shame if you miss this five-star!

3. People Make Excuses Because They Love You

Some of you are probably checking out this blog to find a mood lifter after your great fight with someone whom you really care about–you hate them for having lied to you, for making excuses when all you need is an honest apology. Well, I would ask you to humbly forgive them, because maybe they did it all because they care about you, too.

The concept of any ‘excuse’, as I’ve been observing, roots back to necessary (not always hidden) motives or justification for things we should’ve (or should’ve not, in some cases) done. Excuses are heavily influenced by the kind of emotional and/or professional tie we share with the subject. A student makes excuse to his teacher because he still shows some respect. A husband makes up a story about traffic jam because he’s sorry he has made his spouse wait for two hours.

People make excuses because they love you–otherwise they’ll hurt or leave you directly. Of course some would argue that true love appreciates honesty yada yada yada, but at the point that the other party does not want to hurt you–I think it deserves some forgiveness and celebration.

4. Ideology Puts People in Boxes, Deal With It

Quick update: I’ve been (illegally) attending classes at one super awesome philosophy school, cordially abducted by a senior, to which I really am grateful for. In the past weeks, I’ve been enlightened by great Romos about quite a list of ethics’ distinct proponents. They introduced me to a Christian version of Sartre, Levinas, and other distinguished thinkers.

Last Monday, Romo Magniz invited us to see the idea of ‘ideology’ differently: What is it? Why does it matter? Does Indonesia need one? Is Pancasila an ideology? If yes, is it the most appropriate one for our country? What about religions? Are they another form of ideology or–as Marx puts it–false consciousness? What does it have to do with ethics?

In the end of that long discussion, a new mystery evolves in my head: if ideology is a strong ground from which human thoughts can depart and develop, how can you be sure that it doesn’t keep you from truths burried down under that ground? Simultaneously, when would you know that you should stop digging? What basis can one use to clarifies that freedom and liberty is a basic right? Why can’t we debate on that cause?

This puts me in despair: if every consciousness is based on another constructed consciousness, then where is truth? My senior said that each of us need a set of glasses to look at the world–unfortunately, the factory is not capable of producing standardized, identical commodities. That’s where constructivism fills in and try to explain everything–and compromise should hence take place.

If there’s only one thing I know about truth-seekers, it’s that they shall enjoy the most when proven wrong. But the sad thing is, they’ll never know when they have to halt their efforts. Maybe truth-seekers should just keep looking…

5. There Is Such Thing as Historical Necessity

Yesterday, a friend came to me and consult if she should join this prestigious competition which at one side excites her very much, but at the same time forces her to face her own insecurities: meeting even greater candidates. I said if s
he really wants it, she should go for it.

Let’s look around. You’ll find that people regret more because of things they did not, rather than things they actually did. Melissa taught me this. Out of life’s most terrifying failures, there will always, always be a lesson learned. Most of the time, it does not come in a singular form. Fiascos teach us humility and help us jump higher the next time.

Most devastating failures is a historical necessity. Edison would wholeheartedly support me on this. Rather than secretly cursing on people we conceitedly think we’re better from without being able to prove so, I’d rather discover that I’m inferior to them, accept it in peace, and move on to the next opportunities with new hopes. In Rocky‘s words:

…Whether in front of our laptops making sense of the world, doing something for it out there, or both. We all have our places.


6. Why Self-Wander When You Have Friends?

I’m not anti-social, you see. I enjoy other people’s company in a social setting, but I do have to admit that–most of the time–I draw my energy from solitary spaces. Some (self-proclaimed social) people might see this as a problem, but I argue otherwise. Quoting Tintin’s post, being alone and lonely are two different affairs.

In a more specific scale, I enjoy wandering off alone. If I can add to Tintin’s list of why solo traveling, I would come up with this:

  • When it comes to difficult options, you don’t have to suffer from knowing that you’re wrong, because there’s no second opinion. (Familiar with “Tuh kan, udah gue bilang!” phrase?)
  • You don’t have to deal with people rejecting and/or proposing crazy ideas under the name of normalcy and/or fun. (I once randomly approached a girl in Citos offering her a discount coupon because I failed to find an urge to buy anything and it expired the next day.)
  • You can laugh by yourself because someone’s joke suddenly pops up in your head and you don’t have to care if anyone is curious enough to find out why because you’re just ‘some stranger’.
  • You can pretend that you’re a tourist from China and see if Jakartian people are smart enough to not get fooled.

Last and least, not that much of compromise is needed. Well, I enjoy hanging out in groups, too, but I a balanced portion of both sounds nicer.

7. Iconoclasm Is Depressing

Are you one of those hipsters who enjoy doing something before it was cool? Well, I am. It does feel good when you think you’re the only person doing something, right? But let’s wake up: we never are. Bearing in mind that Earth today is filled with over 9 billion people, somewhere in another part of the world, someone else might have the same idea with you.

That’s why iconoclasm or, as defines it, attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions become more and more depressing today. With social media and such, new values can be easily spread and voila, in a mere week your ‘hipster-ness’ will be part of the mainstream. Sad, huh?

One can indeed contend that iconoclasm is a stupid and narrow way of life because, looking at the bigger picture, one should not become different just for the sake of being different. But then again, is that not mankind’s natural instinct? To be recognized as a unique self?

8. Songs with Good Lyrics Are The Best

Girls have different resons to fall in love, you see: some of them will stick with the guy who’s always there for them. Some others can handle minimum amount of interaction for various illogical reasons. Some others fall in love with the kind of endless disputes they have on a daily basis. In the case of songs, I fall in love with the ones with good lyrics. (A big leap of logical fallacy, much. HAHAHA.)

Jason Mraz (in addition to Jason Reitman–my so far favorite script writer) has been my sole favorite lyric-producer (throw a listen to A Beautiful Mess and Love for a Child) until I met Ingrid Michaelson’s You and IIts simple yet very meaningful lines instantly stick in my head since the first time I listen to it.

With that, I would end this lengthy–but hopefully not pointless–post. Download the song, and have a good, long (and religious, for Christians) weekend!


Is Grey a Disguised Black or a Deceived White?

Some of you might disagree: since thousands of years ago, the most difficult quest of human being is to solve the never-ending riddle of our own complex sets of brain cells.

It is hard, my dear friends, because there is no such thing as a finish line which we can visualize in the end of the road–ergo, it would take perpetual endeavours to do so. Let’s admit it once and for all: our mind evolves. What used to be a ‘truth’ is now a ‘lie’ (Remember when church was the only omnipotent institution?) and, to add an external problem which makes the game even more intriguing, the shape of our world is constantly altering.

Having known that the possibility of discovering a completely satisfactory answer to the mystery of human’s elusive mind is near zero, most of the people fleed to the study of secondary questions: natural science. These people try to explain how atoms react to each other, how numbers have a certain pattern that amaze us all, as well as how carbons are processed in our body. Natural scientists are blessed to experience a temporary happiness of being able to produce knowledge and mastery through experiments–but deep inside, I believe that we all keep that drop of curiosity to find out how mankind produce thoughts.

Social scientists are therefore, brave intellectuals who dare themselves to shed some light on the primary inquiry: how does a person think? What can be the raison d’etre behind one’s action? Why not the other way around?

Some of them are labeled as psychologist, communication expert, theologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and–top of all–philosophers. One tries to explain what comprises fondness, another elucidates the idea behind one community’s political preference, while the rest analyzes our society’s consumptive behavior. If they’re stubborn enough, they might as well go to the extend of explaining why human needs a God–and religion.

Within the past fortnight of not posting here, my brain has been producing quite a list of points to discuss about. Most of them involve human’s idealistic notion of romance, but I also spare enough space for daily observations:


1. In a ladder of fondness, admiration stays at the bottom.

Fahmi and I once debated on whether admiration comprises tinier particles of love or is it admiration that contributes to the bigger building of love. He confidently suggested that love is just 1% of admiration (I’m pretty sure he had Real Madrid in mind when he said ‘admiration’!), while I contended elseways. Unlike admiration which focuses you on one’s fine traits, love helps you see perfection in their flaws.

So, here goes my proposal.

There are at least 3 distinct verbs to express different levels of fondness: admire, like, and love. Of course, English is generous enough to leave us quite a collection of alternatives: adore, care, appreciate, adulate, worship, and the list goes on–but for now, we’ll just stick with the trio.

At the lowest floor of the pyramid, is when you admire a person because you find them attractive. The popular word for it might be–to have a crush? You just seem to notice a certain trait, degree of cleverness, or physical appearance that interest you–thus captivate your attention at some level or another.

The next step is when you like them, triggered by further interaction with this individual. It is, however, a bit tricky, because there comes the two-prone possibility of either losing the interest completely because he/she doesn’t meet your expectations, or falling even deeper into their charm. To ‘like’ does not, however, provide the quintessential tolerance for weaknesses. You simply live in your nice imagination of him being the perfect prince–or her being the most beautiful lady.

The bad news? They’re not. They are, as a matter of fact, just human beings with flaws. There goes the key to get to the next, final level: acceptance.

Have you managed to take these imperfections–be it false tunes, covered wound, or stained habits–as an inseparable aspect of your beloved, you are ready to love them. Indeed, the wind blows tighter up there: every event just seems to reveal itself as a potential threat for your feelings. You will, by then, get familiar with anger and jealousy which are, surprisingly, the validating properties of your fondness.

2. A true leader climbs their ladder.

After a long, midnight discussion with Jessica (while recalling lessons from my Management Principles course a year ago), I realized that a leader is just a person who is foolish enough to admit that he/she is.

You see, being a leader is just a role that human chooses to take from time to time. Some of us needs it to achieve a vision, some of us wants it for money, but it doesn’t matter, really, as long as we understand that being trusted as the leader is never a means to prove that we’re better than anyone else in the team.

It rather means that the rest of the people in the team are better than you in preparing the events, in fundraising, and in doing the publication–but in the end, you get some of the credits because it’s you who decides to stay there, stick them together, stand up and motivate when everybody’s down, and take the blame when a decent coordination does not take place.

We further agreed that a true leader climbs their ladder in order to have a first-hand experience of being a follower. This idea has also been approved theoretically, where leaders are ought to be a staff at their first years so that they can understand the grassroot situation before getting to lead anyone else.

3. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

…including uncertainty. My English teacher once said that in order to survive, human needed a fair, balanced amount of certaintly and uncertainty. A man, for example, needs to be assured that he can eat in the next morning, but at the same time life would be too boring for him if he knows exactly what food he’ll be eating everyday. This has been a very interesting concept to me, and I’ve been trying to find other examples ever since. I take ‘job’ as certainty and ‘projects’ as uncertainty–or ‘marriage’ as certainty and ‘love’ as uncertainty. In this regards, surprises at birthdays still make sense despite the fact that they are very predictable, because the time and place will always remain as uncertainty.

4. Books are sentient beings. Period.

A friend shared me a link to Mortimer J. Adler’s prose on How to Mark a Book. To quote his exact words:

I contend, quite bluntly, that marking up a book is not an act of mutilation but love.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait in there, Mr Adler, did you just say that smearing books with symbols all over its pages is an act of love? I think I have to stand against that idea. He did
make a valid point when he says that:

…But the soul of a book can be separated from its body. A book is more like the score of a piece of music than it is like a painting. No great musician confuses a symphony with the printed sheets of music. Arturo Toscanini reveres Brahms, but Toscanini’s score of the C-minor Symphony is so thoroughly marked up that no one but the maestro himself can read it.

Then again, music scores are nothing like idea-condensed books. (When I said ‘books’, you understand that I refer to thoughtful ones, not some market-based sets of words, right?) No matter how much you love–or hate–a book, it is a sentient being who deserves to be treated well for it is a physical manifestation of thoughts. Great conductors do not make notations on lines of magnificent sentences–they compse new symphony through marking scores.

I say, if you fail to appreciate the body, you can hardly understand the soul. Although in the end, people might express love through different ways,

5. God must be hiding a happy-ending scenario behind the existence of these conflict-triggering religions.

As much as I have this tendency to invent confusing questions about–and for–God, I apparently am still the very conservative girl back then who has an auto-pilot that drives herself into possitive assumptions about Him.

Rumor has it, God closes certain people’s heart from receiving the light for particular religions. My brain has it, it would be a too shallow, and poor, description for Him.

You see, I possess this preposterous habit of watching people walking down the street from the window of my room. One day, it just came up to my mind that each of them–destined for a different story and religion–must play their unique role in God’s master plan. As quoted from Cin(T)a:

Why would God create us different, if He only wants to be worshiped in a single way?

I once said to a friend over coffee that I would feel awfully betrayed if God does not own any happy-ending scenario behind this diversity of religions He has created on Earth. At the status quo, I can say that I still am very much disappointed to the existing conflicts it triggered.

My most favorite story line would be Dwinta’s concept of ‘destination’, while the second-best alternative would be this: God’s actually playing a trick by designing us with a limited container for faith but endless curiosity for truth so that we would ask one another, share ideas, and basically, interact. Because otherwise we’ll just stay at our safe houses of unitary religion.

6. Movie is not a character-killing product.

Instead, it’s a character-producing one.

I wholeheartedly believe that there are many of us who have been let down by novel-based movies, and I’m not proud to say that I used to be one of those furious audience. Harry Potter, Sense and Sensibility, One Day–you name it–true readers don’t really fancy movies.

Of course, I truly understand that movies are intended to please our audio-visual and not mere imagination, and thus are challenged to be eye-and-ear-catching, which are still very tolerable, until I met (the movie) Sherlock Holmes (last year) and Professor Moriarty (yesterday).

Here is all I need to say: my handsomely smart English man has turned into a laughing stock while the brilliant antagonist does not have the fierce expression I expected. So no, people, I won’t take it anymore. I decided to reach out for acceptance through seeing Sherlock (the movie) and Sherlock (Doyle’s) as two different persons.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I rest my last case in 2011. I don’t even know what point I was trying to make back there, but always remember that getting lost in a bookstore might still be the best bliss that we can get so far.

Oh and for 2012, let’s keep my friend’s idea in mind: dreams are not genetic and self-driventhus–before it’s too late–let’s revisit our old dreams and see if we can make them come true (like having–HAHA). Happy new year!

A (Not So) Brief on Almost Everything

Not posting for almost a little too long, I got myself stuck with a lot of ideas to break down. At first I was about to write a single post for each thought, but then I realized that it’s gonna take such a long time and space, so I decided to compact them all into a single post. I hope that you treat every point as valuable as a full post, and–since the post is going to be quite long–I also am humbly asking you to at least read the bold sub-titles and continue to its paragraph if you find them interesting.

The world makes you think that, success or failure, you deserve what you get.

I happened to have stumbled upon Alain de Botton’s TED Talk, and I could hardly stop myself from attentively nodding to Watson’s screen (That’s the name of my laptop, yes.). What I really want to quote from his 16 brilliant minutes of British-accented speech is this:

Back in the middle age, when you saw a poor man on the street, you would say that he’s unfortunate. Today, you call people without job as losers. There’s a big difference between these two terms, and it is constructed throughout 400 years of evil meritocracy.

Another way to say it in modern English: “There are too many random factors that contribute to your path of success; being on the top of a society-constructed pyramid/career does not always mean that you’re better than those at the bottom.” In which, I wholeheartedly agree. Some people get to decent colleges because they have their parents’ money. Some extremely smart people ended up selling shoes at their father’s shop. We really have to recreate our concept of ‘ social structure’.

One funny example: the bald guy was born earlier, so he got the chance to convey my own thoughts to a larger audience. I was born later in a developing country whose people, generally, do not care about impractical philosophy discussion. This surely can’t be explained by the principles of meritocracy.

People who read too many romance tend to complicate things.

I always think that a perfect love story will only happen to people who don’t read novels–or watch drama movies. I myself have consumed too many fiction books that have various plots to not have assumptions on what would happen next, making it impossible for me to fully enjoy the not-knowing-state and be surprised of how people show their affection to each other. In other words, these stories eradicate your sacred idea of uniqueness. A research additionally showed that these novels and movies actually make women set their expectation of relationships very high when, matter-of-fact-ly, it is unlikely to happen unless the guy is some exceptional alien who thinks–or at least understand–the way female beings do.

‘Be yourself!’ is so last year.

I once had a discussion with some friends about whether or not we should really be ourselves at all times. Putting the riddle of ‘how do you really know which one is your true self’ away, we came up with what we call as ‘conditionality’. This means the skill of being able to equalize our frequency to the person we’re with. For example, when you’re out with your yeyek friend, to some extent loosening yourself up to a bit of yeyekness doesn’t hurt. The goal of this behaviour is mainly to befriend and understand the subject in a much better way. We concluded that ‘being ourselves’ does not always benefit us in every situation.

The process of learning a language always creates a certain prejudice to its words.

Especially when you don’t live in the native speakers’ environment and merely study it from weekly courses. Teachers who see English as a foreign language will never get you any close to the real language. They tend to tell you to memorize vocabularies and relate it to a certain translation in their own language. This is where the problem starts. For example: since average English-speaking Indonesian started their lesson back in elementary school, once they hear the word chair, they will always relate it to a physical seat. So even if you know that when a professor is endowed with a chair in economics it means that he becomes a professor, you will always have an image of a chair pops up in your head. Tell me I’m right.

A bit off the topic, a year ago, an abla (Turkish pronoun for sister) told me that Arabic is the universal language of our souls. This is indeed very highly related to Islamic believes and make no sense for secular people, yet I love the idea that every person in the globe actually speak a singular language. This notion also explains why we are told to read the Quran in its purest form, before any translation occured. Because regardless our conscious does not fathom anything, our soul does.

Soulmate is a floating, never-to-be-verified concept.

Ranked second after fate, the idea of soulmate always tickles my brain’s philosophical realm. The big concept is that ‘there is a special someone that is destined to be your company for the rest of your life’, right? This means that you’re cluelessly searching for a single man, or woman, out of 9 billion people in the world? How do you even know where to start? A hypothesis? My questions would then be:

  • At what point can we be assured that someone is our ‘other half’?
  • How can you confirm your faith before the story even finishes?
  • Is relationship/marriage only a tool to officialize this hypothesis? Because you now, married ‘soulmates’ divorce, too.
  • If your partner cheats on you, does that negate the idea that he’s your soulmate? What are the indicators?
  • Is death then the only validation to prove your hypothesis?

Feelings will always deceive owners. Thenceforth, I believe that unless you can quantify its premises, it never really exists.

Making mistakes is the best way to learn.

Almost a month ago, my friend wrote something on being wrong. He summarized Kathryn Schulz idea of the–quoting his own words–misconception of human understanding of erroneousness. I’ve just watched the whole video myself and I turned into wonder as she explicates her genuine, provoking thoughts.

We should never stop entertaining the possibility of being wrong.

The idea of being right at all times will eventually kill you because it becomes harder for you to admit that someone else’s argument makes more sense than yours. I believe that being wrong once in a while is an att
ribute of humane, that it is inherent in everyone. The only difference is on how we react when we realize that we are. Next time we’re wrong, let’s learn to forgive ourselves.

A different approach should be applied when we talk about proofreaders, though. Let them be all tortured with shame and people’s ridicule when they fail to correct the wrongs, because hey that’s what they are paid for! Haha.

Being paid takes a part of your freedom.

I’ve just come to an epiphany that maybe, people love blogging because they don’t have editors who scrutinize whatever crap they write. I am now a labor that is paid on $15 per day to write articles, so I have to accept the fact that I’ll have someone who supervises my work and wake me up to make improvements on this and that. Dee Lestari once tweeted about how your relationship with passion will change once it becomes a profession and I’ve just understood that she’s totally right. For now, I will try my best to make sure that I’m worth the money they pay me for. Oh and I really, really hope that the government also think the same way.

Some people don’t judge but are very judgmental about how people will judge them.

Like, “I don’t think that my speech would impress them that much because I’m just an unimportant person from a second-class college and they’re Harvard guys.” These negative thoughts, ladies and gentlemen, are very deadly. These kind of people don’t even bother taking care about that guy who sits in the corner wearing a pink shirt, but they do care too much about whether or not people will see them as gay if they put on the same outfit. The worth-a-try solution is to stop doing that on purpose.

Indonesian people need to be trained on ‘laughing strategically’.

This aptitude is very practical and useful in one-on-one conversations. I sometimes find it hard to really harmonize my laughters into others’ because sometimes I laugh too early and sometimes too late. It would be nice if an expert can share their ideas upon when we should laugh loudly, quietly, or when we should just be silent all the way.

That’s all I can say for now. Thanks for reading thoroughly (which I doubt that you did)!